Originally published in the St Thomas Lutheran Church monthly newsletter after a 2018 delegation to visit partner community Chichipate in Guatemala. Members hope to raise the profile of the relationship by including a piece each month. In the July newsletter, the group highlighted the delegation visit to a computer school in Chichipate and in the June newsletter, the group wrote about connecting the Sunday school children to Chichipate by inviting them to a Guatemala-style breakfast and simulating the delegation experience.
Greetings, St. Thomas friends! For this month’s newsletter, Ronna Papesh invited me to share a reflection from our time in Chichipate, Guatemala, with our friends at our Sister Parish connection at Santo Domingo de Guzman. I’d like to start with an excerpt adapted from the travel journal I kept while there. The following paragraphs were written on March 15 and 16 of 2018, near the end of the trip:
“I’ve grown very accustomed to the level of noise that goes on pretty much all the time here. Ducks, chickens, roosters, turkeys, dogs, pigs, and the church across the street (not Santo Domingo de Guzman) playing loud music late at night! I’ve also become quite accustomed to the sound of tortillas being made. The women take the corn meal – it’s in some sort of dough form, I’m not sure what else is in it – and pound it back and forth between their palms. They make them flatter here than in El Salvador, [Sister Parish employee and one of our companions] Julieta says, but still much thicker than the ones you see in the U.S.
Last night, Julieta and I had a nice conversation with Juan Tut, our host-father. Julieta is a native speaker of Spanish, so they two speak a bit fast for me to contribute much besides listening, but I muster up a sentence here and there. At one point, he said that though we may eventually get tired of – or tired from – being here, after we leave, we will start to miss it. I said I’m sure that’s true. And I really will, I know it.
I’ll especially miss my host-brother Henri [awn-REE] and our little ‘prima’ [cousin] Vilma [VEEL-muh]. The two of them came to get Julieta and me after the meeting last night. We walked most of the way back to our host-home with the two children holding each of my hands and quizzing me on my Q’eqchi and teaching me new words. They also like to ask me what the words are in English. ¿’Casa’? ‘Ochoch’ in Q’eqchi. ¿En inglés? [In English?] ‘House.’”
Our end-of-trip evaluations for Sister Parish asked us the following question: “What did you discover about your sister community?” We were asked to ponder the differences and similarities we saw between their culture and society and ours at home in Indiana. There
are a lot of possible answers to this question. But one of the things I noticed most strongly was the strength of their community. Chichipate is a thriving, growing community that places a lot of emphasis on the development of the area and the education of its children, while also remaining supportive and close-knit. I don’t mean to over-idealize what it is like there. Humans everywhere are a bit complicated and messy, especially where politics come in. But living in a place where children take your hand without hesitation and try to tell you a little bit about their culture, about the way they live – it makes a mark on your heart. I hope I never forget it.